TurkeyCakeFest V

It’s the coldest it’s been since winter started, and I am FORCING myself to write this.  Must create momentum, must power through.

Back in late 2010, Chowhound posted a recipe for its TurkeyCake, a creation of turkey meatloaf, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed sweet potatoes, and marshmallows all carefully stacked and spread to look like a layer cake.  I posted a picture on Facebook and asked who wanted to make it with me.  My friend Jess jumped in first, and a tradition was born.  I’ve been traveling to her house, first in Boston then in Birmingham, since March of 2011 to cook with her.  We made TurkeyCake the first year (it ends up tasting like shepherd’s pie, which is great if you like shepherd’s pie and a nightmare if you are one of those folks who doesn’t like their food to touch), and then after that my annual visit morphed into a weekend of cooking several tons of interesting, delicious food that did not look like something it wasn’t and me bringing some sort of infused bourbon.

We decided for our TurkeyCakeFest V (TCFV), we needed to bring back the TurkeyCake.  We made a couple of changes.  First, we decided to use mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes to reduce the starch factor; second, we used Jess’s mom’s cranberry sauce recipe; and third, we opted to skip the marshmallows (this was a last-minute decision precipitated by Jess’s kids eating all the mini-marshmallows in the house without her realizing it).

The mashed cauliflower worked out great, but it could have been a disaster.  Mashed cauliflower is way runnier than mashed potatoes; you have to use it to “frost” the sides of the TurkeyCake, and so we had to figure out how to stiffen the mash.  We used a lot of white cheddar cheese (we used a block and a half of white cheddar cheese for two, large heads of cauliflower) and a half a cup of bread crumbs.  I think we would have been ok without the bread crumbs, but when you are facing the clock and the impending arrival of guests, you make last-minute insurance decisions.  Actually, now that I’m remembering the details, we probably wouldn’t have been tempted by the bread crumbs had I not added a couple of pats of butter out of habit to the cauliflower.

Anyway — here’s how we made the mashed cauliflower.  Cut cauliflower into florets, put in a large pot with a scant half-inch of water in the bottom of the pot, cover, simmer until a fork inserted into the cauliflower meets with no resistance.  Pour the contents of the pot into a large bowl, add shredded white cheddar cheese (and if you’re not worried about vertical strength integrity, a couple of pats of butter), and blend with an immersion blender until you get the texture you want.  Delicious.  Not paleo.  Sorry.

For TCFV, I made Boozed and Infused’s apple pie bourbon.  I haven’t made this one in the past because it requires a month of infusing, and I’m not the best at starting things ahead of time.  In honor of our fifth anniversary, I put a note on my calendar.

When I’ve made apple pie bourbon in the past, I’ve ended up discarding the bourbon-y apples.  This struck me as a huge waste every time.  The woman who writes Boozed and Infused turns those apples into pie, but I can’t eat pie, plus you end up cooking the bourbon out of the apples.  After straining the apple pie bourbon into decorative bottles for transport to Birmingham, I spotted my new blender sitting on the counter and had an epiphany.

I tossed a handful of seemingly spent apples into the blender and pulverized them.  When I looked in the pitcher, I saw dry applesauce and no juice.  I almost chalked the experience up as a failed experiment, and then I had a flashback to cold brew coffee and busted out my cloth jelly bags.  I dumped the apple puree into a jelly bag and squeezed, and out came more apple pie bourbon!

The bourbon that you pour from your infusing jars will be clear; the bourbon that you wring out of the apple puree will be cloudy, and it will stay cloudy.  I thought the apple solids would settle out of the bourbon after some time, but they didn’t.  Just think of it as the difference between apple juice and apple cider, and it will be fine because the cloudy bourbon was just as delicious as the clear bourbon.

Anyway, that’s the end of the culinary advice I have for you from this winter.  I made some Meyer lemon marmalade, did not follow my own rules, and ended up with something that I like but that will probably not be sweet enough for other people.  Giving into panic in the kitchen can be dangerous.


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